Do you sometimes feel like a human barometer? Join the club. Most people with Rheumatoid Disease claim that they can tell by increased pain in their joints that the weather is about to change. Scientific studies have long debated if this is true or not, but get a group of patients that have osteoarthritis or arthritis symptoms under the umbrella of autoimmune disease together and you are going to hear a resounding confirmation that we do indeed tend to be human barometers that can out-forecast the meteorologist on the local televised news!
I’ve experienced this phenomenon myself. I live in the southeastern region of Oklahoma. We have relatively mild winters but are quite prone to getting thunderstorms either from weather fronts pushing into the region or due to day time heating that causes pop up storms. I learned that changing weather for poor conditions usually effects my joints within 24 hours of the weather change. It’s only been more recently, that I’ve also been able to attribute humidity to also causing problems with my joints.
I was glad to see an article in September/October 2013 issue of Arthritis today which discussed weather and arthritis under an article called, “Climate Therapy”. In the article, studies have shown that arthritis “patients felt worse both when the barometric pressure was high and humidity was low and vice- versa – mimicking as a storm comes and goes”. In addition, researches have found that ” a 10-degree drop in temperature also corresponds with an increase in joint pain, as does an increase in barometric pressure.” I have noticed the same thing here in Oklahoma. Many times our temperatures here in August will soar into the high 90’s and low 100’s then fall into the 70’s during the night. I kept thinking, why do I still have this storm-like pain when it’s so dang hot? Now I know. It’s the temperature change and barometric shift that occurs without a storm.
I was intrigued by this information because the nurse in me is a science geek and the rheumatoid patient was feeling rather victorious and validated that I’m not really crazy; there is a pattern to weather and joint pain. In checking resources on the internet, many of the newer studies are looking at humidity factors. Rather than quote a bunch of different studies, I’ll just summarize that most found that rheumatoid patients and fibromyalgia patients were more likely to experience an increase in pain with a increase in humidity. Several studies indicated that fibromyalgia patients are more sensitive to humidity. I have experienced this also. We certainly have some very humid days living here in tornado alley and on those high humidity days my fibro pain has been more pronounced that the rheumatoid pain. For those of us who have both diseases, we learn to differentiate the type of pain both diseases cause. For me rheumatoid pain is deeper and sometimes causes my joints to itch, burn, or just have that deep, dull ache. Fibro pain is more superficial, meaning it’s just a few layers deep more like a burn from scalding water or from a very deep sunburn. At least that is how I tell them apart. You may be different.
So, the next time that you feel an increase in pain take a look at the skies. You might just be able to predict these episodes and with prediction we can alter our actions for the day to allow more rest, and perhaps adjustment of medication can help to combat Mother Nature’s effect on our joints.
Quoted material is from Arthritis Today Sept/Oct 2013 issue, page 26. Article: Climate Therapy by Dr. Esther M. Sternberg.